On December 23, 2019, the Louisiana Department of Education announced it won a competitive federal Preschool Development Grant worth more than $11 million each year, for three years. The grant will start in 2020 and is going to be used to create more than 600 new seats at early learning sites for low-income children, from birth to age 3. It will also be used to improve the quality of programming in early childhood education and build the capacity of local communities to meet the needs of their youngest learners.
Since 2014, Louisiana has won two versions of this grant, bringing in a total of $40.3 million, not including this funding.
“Since Act 3 of 2012, Louisiana has positively transformed its early childhood education system, boosting it to No.8 in the nation,” said State Superintendent John White, citing a ranking by the Bipartisan Policy Center.“We are proud this hard work has again been recognized by the federal government in the form of funding support. This new grant award marks an important step toward solving the state’s crisis of access, particularly among children birth to age 3, who are most in need.”
“However, significant barriers remain for thousands of working families in need of quality care and education for their children. We must continue to work together to find solutions and close this gap.” White added.
This grant will allow Louisiana to:
- In the first year, create at least 600 new seats in child care centers for children birth to age 3. Programs that provide infant care, meet teacher certification requirements, have achieved minimum quality rating scores will be prioritized. These seats will be offered as fully funded and additional seats may be added over the three years.
- Double the number of Ready Start Network pilots. Currently, there are 13 pilots statewide. These locally-led pilot programs, which were created in response to2018 legislation, are responsible for increasing access to high-quality early childhood education in their communities. They are critical to sustainably solving Louisiana’s seat crisis for children birth through age 3.
- Fund community-based guides to assist families. These Early Childhood Education Guides were created to recruit and support families to apple for child care assistance, as well as build a community level waiting list of eligible children for seats.
- Strengthen relationships with family child care home providers. Expanding on a pilot already in place, Louisiana will establish and strengthen regional networks of family child care home providers. They will also measure the quality of these operations and offer support for improvement efforts.
Among other key initiatives outlined.
“Louisiana was one of just 20 states across the country to win this Preschool Development Grant. That was not by chance,” said Tony Davis, member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. “I applaud the efforts of the Department to win this award for our state, and I look forward to following the important initiatives this funding will support over the coming years.”
“This exciting news should serve as momentum for early childhood providers, advocates, and lawmakers to continue their progress,” she said. “While this funding is a positive step, more can–and must–be done for our children. Louisiana currently serves nearly all 4-year-old children, but only serves 7 percent of in-need children birth to age 2 and 33 percent of in-need children age 3.” said Dr. Libbie Sonnier-Neto, the executive director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children.
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